The updated report from independent reviewer Debbie Francis released today paints a disappointing picture of the progress made since her first review in 2019, says the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi.
"Urgent, systemic change is needed if our democracy is function effectively for all of us," said PSA National Secretary Kerry Davies.
Francis stated that progress since 2019 while welcome was ad hoc and ‘papered over a fundamentally antiquated and under-resourced operating model.’
"The parliamentary system is based on an adversarial model and deliberate interventions/actions need to be taken to overcome the culture of the debating chamber and contest between politicians permeating into the work environment of those supporting the parliamentary process.
"People working at Parliament, including in Ministerial offices, and in electorate offices need a constructive and safe workplace environment and secure work, particularly at a time of rising threats from some quarters. The model of insecure work contributes to both a feeling and a reality of insecurity," said Davies.
PSA National Organiser for Parliamentary Agencies Stephanie Lamborn said: "Parliament is full of people committed to making a difference. But we know from our members that their workloads have increased significantly in recent years without a corresponding in increase in resources. People are being burnt out and are leaving, and that is not a recipe for a well-functioning Parliament.
"Our democracy is too important for us to continue to let this happen. We call for an independent body to advise the Speaker on appropriate levels of resourcing for our democracy to operate well.
"Parliament includes more than just Members, Ministers and their staff. The Office of the Clerk and Parliamentary Services keep select committees and parliamentary procedures running. We need to take the politics out of the resourcing the engine room of our democracy."
Kerry Davies said: "We can’t afford to wait another four years. The time for fundamental and systemic change is now.
"The PSA believes those working at Parliament and their unions need to be at the centre of designing a better workplace and part of the process to overhaul the workplace culture to achieve long term and sustainable improvements - great for the people that work there, and even better for our democracy."
Some specific points:
- In Minister’s offices, the PSA supports continued professionalisation of the office management function a more consistent approach to the set-up of offices set up post appointment and greater support for senior private secretaries to develop better and more consistent management approaches.
- Pay at Parliament is unfair. There are unjustifiable differences in pay between people in similar roles. It shouldn’t matter which agency you work for or which Party or Minister you work with. The PSA supports the recommendation in the report that unions are involved in the redesign of pay structures.
- The PSA strongly supports ending both the current events-based contracts, where a staff member’s employment ends if the MP they work for leaves or changes role, and the triangular employment relationship where the Parliamentary agencies are the actual employer but the MP acts as the employer in reality. MPs should not be the employer. The PSA supports the creating of a central staffing service where people are recruited to service Parliament, rather than particular MPs.